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Government looks to ease burden of ABN system changes

By Miranda Brownlee
18 June 2019 — 1 minute read

The ATO has assured SMSFs that the government will be looking to minimise the impact of the proposed measures to the ABN system wherever possible, such as allowing ABN holders to confirm their details through the lodgement of tax returns.

As part of the 2019–20 federal budget, the government announced some proposed changes to the ABN system which would require clients with Australian business numbers to lodge an annual income tax return where they have an income tax return obligation from 1 July 2021, and confirm the accuracy of their details on the Australian Business Register (ABR) from 1 July 2022.

Currently, ABN holders are able to retain their ABN regardless whether they are meeting their income tax return lodgement obligation or the obligation to update their ABN details.


The measures announced in the federal budget were in response to a Treasury consultation paper released last year which stated that the current ABN system was in need of reform as it was being used by participants in the black economy to create a false sense of legitimacy to their business.

The consultation paper stated that periodic renewals would prompt ABN holders to reconsider their eligibility, update their details and serve as a reminder of the associated penalties for supplying false information.

An ATO spokesperson told SMSF Adviser that the government will be undertaking public consultation on the legislative changes required with implementing this measure and that it would look to minimise the regulatory impact on ABN holders.

“This includes allowing ABN holders to check their ABR details through existing business interactions, such as through the lodgement of income tax returns, without the need to introduce new reporting processes,” it stated.

Given that SMSFs apply for an ABN when they register for an SMSF with the ATO, Insyt chief executive Darren Wynen previously pointed out that changes to the ABN system will also have an impact on SMSFs.

Mr Wynen previously said that there could be extra compliance steps for SMSFs as a result of these changes, and consequences where they fail to comply with the lodgement of returns or comply with the new requirements.

“All of a sudden they could be put in the same basket as non-complying funds or funds that don’t comply with the lodgement of returns and have their regulation details withheld [by the ATO],” he warned.

“Certainly, that could create a problem if regulation details are withheld; that might prevent rollovers being made to the fund, for example.”

Government looks to ease burden of ABN system changes
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Miranda Brownlee

Miranda Brownlee

Miranda Brownlee is the deputy editor of SMSF Adviser, which is the leading source of news, strategy and educational content for professionals working in the SMSF sector.

Since joining the team in 2014, Miranda has been responsible for breaking some of the biggest superannuation stories in Australia, and has reported extensively on technical strategy and legislative updates.
Miranda also has broad business and financial services reporting experience, having written for titles including Investor Daily, ifa and Accountants Daily.

You can email Miranda on: [email protected]momentummedia.com.au
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